Senate debates

Monday, 22 February 2016


Competition and Consumer Amendment (Payment Surcharges) Bill 2015; In Committee

10:57 am

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Senator Birmingham, you made my case for me in what you just said. Do you think most Australians understand, when they use an ATM, that it costs only 77c to process that transaction? Do you think they understand, when they pay two or three dollars, that they are getting a fair and reasonable deal out of the banks? Do you think they know they are being gouged by the banks? The point here, which you just raised and which I also raised, is that the fact that the banks charge $3 for a transaction that actually costs them only 77c could be construed by many people in this country as misleading and deceptive.

If you go back to the original RBA ruling in 2012, credit card surcharges were meant to have been limited to the reasonable cost to the business of processing the transaction, which for Visa and MasterCard was about 0.8 per cent and for American Express and Diners Club was about two per cent. We realise that there have been charges well in excess of that, especially by airlines. There have been some examples given in evidence. I think in one case Tigerair charged, for a $132 air ticket, a surcharge fee on a credit card transaction that ended up being inflated by nearly 1500 per cent. Isn't the same principle that is applied to credit card fees applied to the use of ATM machines? At the end of the day, Australians do not realise the profits the banks are making on this. Many would consider them excessive. Why can't we extend this principle to the use of physical infrastructure for processing a payment, whether it is an ATM, or EFTPOS in a shop? You have broadband, you have copper wires, you have all the same things in place for both systems: they both involve, essentially, an electronic service. We know the banks are making $600 million or more a year in profits from the use of ATMs. Let us take the reasonable principle that is in this bill and that we agree with and let us apply it to probably one of the biggest rorts that we see in this country, which is the profits banks make on ATMs.

They are even charging their own customers fees. Interestingly enough, I notice Bendigo Bank are charging 70c per transaction to their own customers now to cover the provision of that service. If that costs Bendigo Bank 70c, and the Reserve Bank said it cost 77c, how can anyone stand here and not say the current fees are excessive, and it is misleading and deceptive if the Australian people think that it costs the bank $2 or $3 to provide that service? Clearly, it does not cost them $2 or $3. And I do not see why we cannot apply the same principle to credit card payments.


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